The Mazda CX-5 has been around for more than a decade now, with the second generation model making its debut in 2017.
Mazda describes this 2022 model as “substantially revised” but even by the standard of midlife facelifts it feels like a fairly gently update.
Until you really start digging around, the changes seem barely detectable. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The CX-5 was already an impressive machine and it remains so in this latest incarnation.
Design-wise there are new lights and bumpers and a slightly more prominent grille but unless you view new and old side-by-side you’d struggle to notice much difference. Given that the CX-5 is one of the best looking cars in its class, that’s no great shame and Mazda’s simple styling continues to be classy and timeless.
Even our test car’s dull battleship grey paintwork couldn’t detract from overall appeal, although in combination with the gloss black trim and alloys of the Sport Black specification it did look like it was running on roller-skate wheels rather than 19-inch alloys.
Inside even less has changed. Sport Black trim brings red stitching to the black leather upholstery to match red exterior highlights, while the range-topping GT Sport gets brown Nappa leather upholstery and open-grain wood trim.
The CX-5’s interior remains a cut above any mainstream rivals in terms of clarity, design, layout and materials. Everything has the look and feel of premium marques and, like the exterior, simplicity is key to its appeal from both a visual and practical view. It’s not as deliberately “styled” as something like a Peugeot or Citroen but is simple and sophisticated.
Long-legged drivers might find the front seat squabs are too short but otherwise it’s a comfortable car to drive or be driven in, with plenty of space up front and good rear space for two, although the bench would be a squeeze for three.
Each trim level of the CX-5 range comes with a different powertrain arrangement, mixing manual or automatic gearboxes with 161bhp or 191bhp petrol or 148bhp/181bhp diesel engines.
Sport Black is sold exclusively as a 161bhp petrol with a six-speed manual gearbox.
That transmission continues to be an area where Mazda shines. It feels far sharper and sweeter than is really necessary for a family SUV. But that’s just as well because you’ll spend a lot of time flicking through the gears to compensate for the CX-5’s biggest weakness - its engine.
The naturally aspirated 2.0-litre Skyactiv-G petrol used in the CX-5 simply lacks the flexibility and responsiveness of the turbo-charged or hybridised motors of its rivals. There’s no low-down torque and it feels completely gutless until you start to rev it to death. Even then, with 161bhp, it doesn’t feel overendowed in the performance stakes. A hybrid Kuga or Sportage is more relaxing and easier to drive, and probably more frugal too. If you want the more powerful 191bhp petrol you’ll need to step up to the GT Sport, where it comes as standard with all-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic gearbox.
A step down in grade to Sport gives the choice of either diesel as well as the lower-powered petrol, while the all-new Newground trim offers the same drivetrain as the Sport Black but with a more rugged styling pack.
While the engine struggles to impress, the CX-5’s road manners are more convincing with a nice blend of responsive handling and decent ride, proving once again that Mazda’s chassis engineers really know their business.
All new CX-5s come with a decent range of equipment, from adaptive headlights and dual-zone climate control to a 10.25-inch infotainment screen with sat nav and smartphone mirroring and the latest version of Mazda’s i-Activsense driver assistance systems. One rung below the top spec, Sport Black adds leather upholstery, a powered tailgate, heated seats and steering wheel, head-up display, 19-inch gloss black alloys, wireless phone charging and a Bose sound system for £34,170.
Compared to some rivals that makes it seem like pretty good value thanks to its impeccable styling and build quality and generous equipment levels. The lack of a hybrid system means high-spec versions can be cheaper than these petrol/electric opponents, however, the relatively old-fashioned engine line-up feels out of step and could be a dealbreaker for some.
Mazda CX-5 Sport Black
Price: £34,170 (£34,750 as tested); Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, petrol; Power: 161bhp; Torque: 157lb ft; Transmission: Six-speed manual; Top speed: 125mph; 0-62mph: 10.5 seconds; Economy: 41.5mpg; CO2 emissions: 153g/km